WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
Manchester United are keen on USA winger Christian Pulisic, the Daily Mail reports. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund player has caught the eye of Jose Mourinho in recent months with the manager keen on bringing in a winger and playmaker.
Newly-appointed Everton boss Sam Allardyce is looking at making James Tomkins his first signing, according to the Sun. The 28-year-old centre-back was sold by West Ham to Crystal Palace last July, but Allardyce is looking to spend up to £20million to bring him to Goodison Park the paper reports.
Takeover talks at Newcastle may scupper any deal to bring Leicester’s Islam Slimani to St James’ Park, the Leicester Mercury says. Rafael Benitez wants to bring in the striker, but could face competition from Watford, West Brom and Stoke the paper reports.
Basel defender Manuel Akanji is subject to interest from both Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, according to the Independent. The German side are pushing hard for a deal to be done in January, but the Swiss club want to keep the 22-year-old for the rest of the campaign, the paper said.
SOCIAL MEDIA ROUND-UP
— Daily Star Sport (@DailyStar_Sport) December 21, 2017
— Chelsea Extra 🏆 (@CFCExtra) December 22, 2017
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jose Arnaiz: Arsenal could make a £17.7m move for the 22-year-old Barcelona winger, according to Marca.
Leonardo Bonucci: Manchester City are keeping an eye on the AC Milan man following rumours the 30-year-old is unhappy at the club, Gazzetta dello Sport said.
The Premier League leaders are now happy to wait until next summer for their long-term target after making such a superb start to the season.
City realise Sanchez, who is in the final year of his Gunners contract, could sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere from January but that is unlikely to influence their thinking.
The club do not feel it makes a lot of sense to sign the Chilean mid-season and potentially risk disrupting the attacking balance of a squad that has swept almost all before them this term.
The 29-year-old has also been linked with Paris St Germain but, while an offer has not been completely ruled out in certain circumstances, City will not be hurried by the transfer policies of other clubs.
City had a bid worth up to £60million for Sanchez accepted on deadline day in August but a deal could not be finalised as Arsenal were unable to secure a replacement.
— Sam Lee (@Sammy_Goal) December 15, 2017
Any disappointment felt over that, however, has hardly shown up as a shortcoming in City’s squad. City are unbeaten and lead the Premier League by 11 points after winning their last 16 games. They are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League and the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
City’s feelings on the Sanchez situation are connected to a general reluctance to do business during the January transfer window unless there is a clear necessity to strengthen a certain position.
One such exception could be at centre-back, where City have appeared short of options of late with John Stones and Vincent Kompany both suffering injuries.
City could revive attempts to sign Jonny Evans from West Brom but it is understood other options will be explored, possibly including Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk. City will work to a plan of at least 18 months with all signings and not bring in players to fill gaps short-term.
Some stories breaking this afternoon. @Simon_Hughes__ has stated that Liverpool want Basel’s centre-back Manuel Akanki, @ed_aarons has said that Pep Guardiola has informed Manchester City’s hierarchy that he would like to sign Alexis Sánchez and Virgil van Dijk.
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) December 21, 2017
If another defender is not recruited, a centre-back will be a priority in the summer along with extra defensive central midfield cover.
Contract talks with Fernandinho, who is in the final year of his current deal, are likely but Yaya Toure could leave when he becomes a free agent in the summer.
City are no longer thought to be interested in signing another left-back. Manager Pep Guardiola looked light in the position after Benjamin Mendy suffered a long-term knee injury in September but Fabian Delph has proved an adequate replacement. There is also further back-up in Danilo and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
The 27-year-old has scored 16 goals in 21 games in his second season at Ligue 1 side Nice, but hankers for big trophies again.
“My aim is to return to a big club to win something important again,” Balotelli told Thursday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport.
Mario Balotelli, Edinson Cavani and Falcao: Are the only three players to have scored 10 or more Ligue 1 goals in both the 2016/17 season and the 2017/18 season pic.twitter.com/Jsz5QHPRKi
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 20, 2017
“I’d like to get back to having a strong squad behind me. I want to play in the Champions League and win something.”
Balotelli won six trophies with Inter Milan including the Champions League before moving to Manchester City in 2010, followed by two spells at AC Milan either side of an unsuccessful stint at Liverpool.
He insisted he has put his wilder days behind him and surrounded by his family was enjoying football as never before.
“It’s a special season, it should always be like that. I have no pressure, I work well but I have been working well since my time at Liverpool but goals always make the difference.
“I was acting as a teenager but I’ve hurt nobody,” continued Balotelli of his controversial past. “Anyway people can’t ask a 20-year-old to stay at home.”
Balotelli left Liverpool on a free transfer in August 2016 to join Nice who are sixth in the French league this season.
But a return to an Italian club could be complicated, Balotelli believes.
“It’s hard to say (about AC Milan), there would be too much pressure on me like the last time. I wanted to visit my old team-mates a few weeks ago but (club chief executive Marco) Fassone said it was better not to do it.
“Inter are a great club. I got on very well there. I spoke with (sporting director Piero) Ausilio, I let him know that I would come back willingly. But it was only joking.”
Balotelli has 33 goals in 49 games since joining Nice. A lot of people wrote him off, but he’s still doing the business and is actually carrying his team this season too.
— Mootaz Chehade (@MHChehade) December 19, 2017
But he added that “without a doubt” his best days were spent at Premier League leaders Manchester City, with whom he won the English title in dramatic fashion on the final day of the 2011-12 season.
“I had my best season there and there’s a unique atmosphere at the club, I’d return to play there even without a salary.”